It had been almost a week since Locke and Glace's ridiculous night. A lot of things happened during this period.
First, a group of mercenaries hired by the baron in Bideslane had arrived at the joint camp and officially of the battalion. The nationalities of this group of professional mercenaries were all sorts of strange; some were natives of Faustian, some were from the southern Ligia Union, others from the Kingdom of Karaman, and there were even people from the Aomor Empire.
The leader was a middle-aged man with a lush brown beard, almost emblematic of his rich experience as a mercenary leader. He was also a low-rank Knecht. Locke's instincts told him he wouldn't be this man's match.
But Locke, who was the deputy jarl of the Faustian cavalry platoon, had a much higher status than this bearded man. They were just being polite by calling them mercenaries. In reality, they were just cannon fodder bought by the baron with money. Although they might die, whenever the baron asked them to fight, they had to fight.
Then again, this group of reckless mercenaries were also not afraid of anything. Death to them was only seen as a small wound on their bodies, although that wound was actually made on the heart.
One more thing was that those recruited by the baron in the territory had already been in place since a few days ago. A platoon of recruits comprised of 72 young soldiers. Most of them were between 15 and 17 years old, being younger than Locke.
It was worth noting that one of the young men was Hans' younger brother. There were three sons in his family and Hans ranked second. He had a newlywed elder brother and a younger brother three years his junior. This time around, his younger brother was recruited by the baron.
Actually in families like Hans', where there was already a male member in the army, the baron would not force them to send another member to join the army. However, the Cardoj domain really had no young adults left to spare. Just by looking at the age of this group of recruits, it was obvious that they were gathered together with much difficulty.
Of course, the reason why Hans' younger brother wanted to apply was not just because of the baron's order and generous compensation. It was also because of the news sent back to the domain a month ago, about Hans being appointed as an acting platoon jarl.
Being a soldier under the care of his jarl elder brother would obviously be better than working in the field as a farmer as far as Hans' brother thought. This was despite the rumors about the death and injury of nearly half of the men suffered by Cardoj's battalion a month ago; so many families were broken due to that.
From this point of view, Hans' younger brother had a lot of ambition, as he dared to join the army at such a high risk.
"Big Brother Locke!" Hans' younger brother always smiled brightly when he saw Locke. This younger brother of his was named Hank.
"Sister Lia and Aunt Tia were relieved when they heard that you were all right!" Hank said with a smile.
Locke just learned about this not long ago. During his time in the Bering Mountains, news of his death had not been sent back to the domain. Instead, it was intercepted by Hans and Caen. They sent their own salary back to Locke's family to show that he was still alive.
A month ago, nearly half of the men from Cardoj's battalion were injured or killed. It might not be a big deal in the huge Falcon, but it had caused an uproar in the domain. The entire area was a mess, and almost every family had a deceased member.
Locke sighed, internally thanking the help from his two brothers Hans and Caen. Otherwise, he couldn't believe how he would be hit if his parents and sister found out that he had died in the battle. Unlike the Hans family that had abundant male heirs, Locke was the only seedling in his family.
"Well, you have to work hard too!" Locke patted Hank on the shoulder. The young man was three years younger than him, but his height was not much different. It was just that he was too skinny, like a stick. It was totally inconceivable that he was the younger brother of the burly, bullish Hans.
"Yes!" Hank grinned.
Unlike Hans who was a stuffy bottle, Hank was an outgoing person, which was very similar to Caen. Coupled with the difference between their two bodies, the veterans in the camp often joked that Hank was more like Caen's brother.
Caen also took good care of his 'brother's' younger brother. Due to Hank's physique, he planned to train him to be a scout like himself. Caen, who grew up lonely since he was a child, now used all the means and taught Hank everything he knew. Almost a week had passed, and Caen had also looked past not being promoted to a first-rate soldier.
Among the three, Caen was the most jumpy and enthusiastic, but he was also the one who didn't care much about the future. Caen, who was born an orphan and beggar, was easily satisfied with what he had.
"You can live comfortably alone!" These were his own words.
This morning, Locke completed his practice routine and made rounds in the cavalry camp. After all, he was the deputy jarl of the cavalry platoon, and he needed to be familiar with his men.
After that, Locke went straight to meet Hans, Yoshk and the others. They had always gone to the baron's tent for lunch.
When he went to look for Hans, he was just in time for Hank's training with Caen. Hans and the others were looking at the two with their arms folded in the military camp. Caen was teaching Hank the essentials of creeping forward. As a scout, this was the most essential and important skill.
Just taking a look at Hank, covered in mud and soil with a bitter expression plastered on his face, the few of them couldn't help but laugh. There wasn't much fun in the camp now, and watching others suffer was a good way to pass time.
Noticing Locke's arrival, Yoshk and Karl said with smiles on their faces, "You're here!"
Because of the particularity of the cavalry platoon, Locke's position now was one level above the ordinary platoon jarls, and his low-rank Knecht strength was obvious enough. The other platoon jarls had to be respectful when they saw him, but Yoshk and Karl didn't need to. They were his elders, and Locke would never put on any airs in front of these two.
Nodding, Locke replied, "Yes, Uncle." He had the greatest respect towards Yoshk and Karl.
When it was time, Locke and the others called out to Caen and Hank who were still training off the court, and headed for the baron's tent together. Hank who had just been drilled near death by Caen raised his head, looking at Locke, Hans and the others in a distance with envy and said, "When will I be like my brother? How great it is to be so glorious!"
"As long as you have the skills, you can reach that level," Caen at the side replied irritably. His 'apprentice' had good physical qualities and a flexible mind, his only flaw being he was lazy and always tried to slack off. He needed Caen's supervision constantly.
"Continue training. You are not allowed to eat lunch without finishing three more rounds!" Caen said to Hank fiercely. Although he didn't care whether he was promoted to platoon jarl, he had his regrets. Hank accidentally stepped on a landmine, causing Caen to train even harder.
"Huh?!" Hank who was lying on the ground, practicing his creeping forward posture, let out a scream. The other soldiers in a distance heard his scream, and a shiver ran through their bodies.
Nobody cared about the struggling Hank on the training ground. Locke, Hans, Yoshk and the others had already reached the baron's tent.
The four people sat together very tacitly. The first seat was of course for Cardoj, the position on his right belonged to Wyr, while the left belonged to Solon, though this spot had been vacant these days. The next closest spots were those of Mond and Locke, followed by the jarls of the other platoons.
Locke sat next to Wyr, as expected of Wyr's deputy. Next to Locke were Yoshk, Karl, and Hans.
Not long after, one after another, several people entered the tent. First was Mond, who came in with a smile, followed by his deputy jarl. Next came the jarl of Hans's platoon. He sat beside Hans, making it look like he was Hans' deputy instead.
The last ones who came in just in time were the bearded man of the mercenary platoon and a pale-skinned, shady young fellow. They were the leaders of the mercenaries. These guys were relatively casual and were the last ones to arrive, being a bunch of ragtag fighters from various backgrounds.
Though, mercenaries valued integrity highly. Although they came late, they were still on time, so no one could say anything about it.
As soon as the two mercenaries entered, Cardoj and Wyr walked in together. Cardoj was probably discussing something with Wyr since they were still talking as they took their places at the table.
There was still more than a week before the arrival of the new year. By then, Locke would have been in the army for five years. Looking back on his experiences over the past five years, those memories were things he would never forget.
Recently the baron hadn't given many orders apart from those to train soldiers. In the joint camp were more than 70,000 soldiers. Coupled with the recruits from Faustian, the actual number approached 80,000. In this large military camp full of vigour and new blood, the training cries of the soldiers could be heard everyday.
Locke once took the time to go to the side of the joint camp and took a peek at Audis that they encircled. The simple and majestic towers, the tall and steep city walls, and the countless defenses erected on the walls gave him a great shock.
This was the first time Locke had seen a large city with a population of more than 100,000. Audis, the capital of Shalor, was simply majestic. Soon, they were about to attack such a city. As he looked at the pruned city wall and saw the city's horizon, a touch of excitement surged in his heart.
Snow fell on Audis and the army camp, painting the landscape a pristine white. Nevertheless, Locke knew that this was the calm before the storm.